Trust nets £50k for butterfly habitats

It is an excellent example of how highly-specialised land management has become more commonplace in the modern era of conservation. Bosses at Norfolk Wildlife Trust have been awarded a grant of £50,000 to restore and manage lowland heathland at Buxton Heath, home to one of only five colonies in the county of the nationally scarce silver-studded blue butterfly.

It is an excellent example of how highly-specialised land management has become more commonplace in the modern era of conservation.

Bosses at Norfolk Wildlife Trust have been awarded a grant of £50,000 to restore and manage lowland heathland at Buxton Heath, home to one of only five colonies in the county of the nationally scarce silver-studded blue butterfly.

Lowland heathland is a rare and threatened habitat and has become a priority for nature conservation. In England, only one sixth of the heathland present in the year 1800 now remains.

In order to restore and maintain such heathland, constant management of scrub and encroaching trees is essential. Other habitat work includes the use of grazing animals, the creation of turf ponds and brushcutting, to ensure the correct conditions are created and maintained for a range of flora and fauna.

The silver-studded blue butterfly needs a very specific environment, including short vegetation and patches of bare soil, along with areas of mature heather for feeding adults, so it is necessary to carefully manage the site as a mosaic of different habitats. This is done in consultation with experts at the British Butterfly Society.

The latest grant will allow the use of a flail and tractor capable of removing scrub up to five feet tall, including birch, gorse and even tree stumps. Scrub will also be cleared to reveal areas of bare ground alongside short and long patches of heather.

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The money has come from Biffaward, a multi-million pound environment fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which uses landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services.

Brendan Joyce, director of NWT, said: "Buxton Heath is one of the best examples of lowland heathland in Norfolk and this generous grant will help the trust to both protect the existing habitat and directly contribute to the ongoing restoration of this important site."

The heath, of particular importance through its designation as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), is owned by a poors trust called the Hevingham Fuel Allotment Charity.

The charity was originally created to provide the poor of the parish with land to graze and cut materials, but is now recognised as custodian of an important wildlife habitat.

Staff from NWT and volunteers from the Buxton Heath Wildlife Group have worked with the owners to look after the heath.

Their joint aim is to ensure the site remains as stated in the SSSI citation - "one of the best examples of this rare habitat type in Norfolk".

The land management project will also benefit other threatened species including nightjar and woodlark.

Martin Bettington, chairman of Biffaward, said: "We are delighted to be able to support the trust in its work to restore and manage this valuable habitat."

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